NORTH ANDOVER -- Hingham entered its third Super 8 game at Merrimacks Lawler Arena on Sunday in sole possession of its own destiny.
After BC High eliminated St. Johns of Shrewsbury in the opening game, setting up a possible three-way tie between the Eagles, Hingham and Malden Catholic, the Harbormen were faced with the daunting task of not only taking down the only unbeaten team in Group 1, but doing it by at least three goals in order to win the goal differential tie breaker.
But Malden Catholic (18-1-4) had its own agenda, and executed it flawlessly.
The Lancers top line of Brendan Collier (2 goals, 2 assists), Ryan Fitzgerald (3 goals, 1 assist) and Michael Iovanna (2 assists) torched Hingham for five goals as Malden Catholic thumped the Harbormen, 7-2, to win Group 1 outright and advance to the crossover round on Wednesday night.
Im very happy that we got the two points, thats what we came here for, Malden Catholic coach John McLean said. I wasnt very happy defensively how we played ... the first line did what theyre supposed to do. They have a lot of talent, they move the puck well, and when they get a chance theyll put it in the net.
Defensive miscues and open-net chances for Hingham had McLean on edge in the second period. Junior goaltender Connor Maloney finished with 12 saves on 14 shots.
He stood on his head today, defenseman Colin McGillivray said. There was a lot of chances and he stopped them.
I thought Maloney did a great job, McLean said. We didnt do a good job in our end, he came up with some huge saves ... the kids felt really good after the second period and I kind of blasted them ... [Hingham] probably missed three empty nets. Its a different game if they put that puck in the net.
Animosity on the ice grew with each Malden Catholic tally. By the time Collier scored on a shorthanded breakaway to extend the Lancers lead to 5 at 3:29 of the third period, roughing minors and matching penalties were being handed out frequently and without bias.
Both teams want to win bad out here, so its going to get chippy, Fitzgerald said. So it was on both sides but we just pulled through.
We talked to our guys ... you cant get thrown out or youre out of the tournament, McLean said. But I thought the refs did a good job.
After a slow start with both sides struggling to get shots through traffic, Collier made a strong move to the net after a drop pass from Ryan Fitzgerald just inside the Harbormen zone and deked around netminder John Grenier to put the Lancers up, 1-0, at 7:51 on the first shot of the game.
Less than three minutes later, Patrick Mannion picked Lancers defenseman Casey Fitzgerald's pocket at the Harbormen blue line, and turned defenseman Colin MacGillivray inside out at the Lancers blue line to get in alone on goalie Connor Maloney before going top shelf for the equalizer.
As the odd-man rushes and breakaways continued, freshman phenom Ara Nazarian entered the Hingham zone on a partial breakaway with just over three minutes left in the opening frame. Grenier came out of his crease aggressively and Nazarian went forehand to backhand, sliding the puck into an open net to put the Lancers back on top for good. Nazarian has scored in every tournament game so far.
A lot of guys will take that shot from the outside, McLean said. Hell take it right to the net and sacrifice his body to make a great play. Hes a dynamic player.
Final: Malden Catholic 7, Hingham 2 -- That right there was the Malden Catholic that no team wanted to see. Now that they've pulled out their signature victory, everyone will be wondering if they can keep it up through the crossover round on Wednesday where the Lancers go in as the top see out of bracket one.
14:49: Malden Catholic 7, Hingham 2 -- The Harbormen still have a bit left in the tank as they get a power play goal from Sam D'Antuono.
11:06 3rd period: Malden Catholic 7, Hingham 1 -- That's a hat trick for Ryan Fitzgerald who picked up a rebound on the right side and wristed a laser past Grenier. Still time for Collier and Azarian to match Fitzgerald's trick.
3:29 3rd period: Malden Catholic 6, Hingham 1 -- Collier steals the puck and races in all alone on a short handed bid, dekes Grenier left and backhands it home on the right side. Collier, and the rest of the Lancers, have been electric tonight and seem to have found their stride after two close games to start the Super 8.
0:39 3rd period: Malden Catholic 5, Hingham 1 -- Fitzgerald with his second of the afternoon. Puck scaled into Hingham's corner to left of Grenier with Collier in pursuit. Grenier comes out and plays it up the wall, picked off by Fitzgerald who walks into the right circle and snaps it home. Assist to Collier.
End of the 2nd period: Malden Catholic 4, Hingham 1 -- It's all Malden Catholic right now. Numerous chances for the Lancers to extend their lead beyond three goals as the period wore on. The Harbormen have one tall order to fill...even if they can keep the Lancers off the scoreboard in the third they would need six goals to win the goal differential and advance to the crossover stage.
4:34 2nd period: Malden Catholic 4, Hingham 1 -- This one is getting out of hand quickly. Nazarian with his second of the game on a partial breakaway. Assisted by Brendan White.
3:16 2nd period: Malden Catholic 3, Hingham 1 -- Collier swings around the back of the Hingham net with the puck and sends it in front to a wide open Fitzgerald in the slot. Fitzgerald buries it to give MC a two-goal cushion. Collier and Iovana with the assists.
End of 1st period: Malden Catholic 2, Hingham 1 -- The Lancers dial up the pressure in the final minutes of the opening frame and take a 2-1 advantage into the first intermission. Shots on goal, 6-3, for Malden Catholic.
11:38 1st period: Malden Catholic 2, Hingham 1 -- Ara Nazarian on a partial breakaway puts the Lancers back on top. Grenier comes way out to his right to challenge Nazarian, Nazarian goes forehand to backhand and slides it in the wide open net. Assisted by Nick Rolli.
10:29 1st period: Malden Catholic 1, Hingham 1 -- Strong individual effort by Patrick Mannion to pull the Harbormen even. Mannion picks Casey Fitzgerald's pocket at the Harbormen blue line, turns Colin MacGillivray inside out at the MC blue line and goes top shelf in all alone on MC goalie Connor Maloney.
7:51 1st period: Malden Catholic 1, Hingham 0 -- Brendan Collier puts the Lancers on top with the first shot of the game...makes a strong move to the net after a drop pass from Ryan Fitzgerald just inside the Harbormen zone and dekes around netminder John Grenier. Assists to Fitzgerald and Michael Iovanna.
We're about fifteen minutes from dropping the puck on game No. 2 in the final round of group play from Merrimack's Lawler Arena. Top-seed Malden Catholic (17-1-4) faces off with Hingham (17-5-2) in the second of four games today. The Lancers win Group 1 outright and advance to the crossover round on Wednesday with a win here today.